As presented in the sagas and other Icelandic literary sources, there are 3 legendary dynasties of Swedish rulers; The Yngling dynasty, the House of Munso, and the dynasty founded by Ivar Vidfamme. In this write up, we will be discussing the progenitor of the Yngling dynasty – Yngvi.
Who is Yngvi?
Yngvi, which is alternatively spelt as Yngve, is a name of the god Freyr. There is a Scandinavian interpretation that the name Yngvi was Freyr’s actual name whereas Frey ‘Lord’ was more or less the common title to which he was referred. According to the Ynglinga saga and Gesta Danorum, Frey was a king of Sweden and was known as Yngvi-Freyr, who succeeded his father Njordr.
Also, there is Yngvi of Turkey who is described as Njordr’s father in the Íslendingabók. Further, Njord is Yngvi-Freyr who becomes the ancestor of the Ynglings. Generally, Yngvi was particularly associated with Sweden dynasties and is regarded as the progenitor of the Swedish royal house.
Norse mythology describes Yngvi as the forefather of the Yngling lineage, which was one of the legendary dynasties of Swedish kings. It is from the Yngling lineage that the earliest Norwegian kings descended. Additionally, ‘Yngvi’ is the true name of the Norse god Freyr, who was associated with fertility, sunshine, and rain.
According to the Íslendingabók, the Icelandic priest Ari Þorgilsson describes Yngvi king of Turkey as the father of Njodr (the god of the sea) and the father of Yngvi-Freyr(ancestor of the Ynglings). The Skjöldunga saga, on the other hand, claims that Odin (the god of war and head of Asgard) originated from Asia and conquered Northern Europe. Following conquest of the region, he gave Denmark to his son Skjöldr, which is why the kings of Denmark are known as Skjöldungs. Afterward, he gave Sweden to his song Yngvi, which is the main reason why the kings of Sweden are known as Ynglings.
In the Ynglinga saga by Snorri Sturluson and the Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus, Freyr is attested as a Swedish king. The Ynglinga saga further identifies that Yngvi-Freyr succeeded his father Njodr. The Historia Norwegiæ gives a different account however. It says that Ingui/Yngvi fathered a certain Neorth and was also the father of Freyr.
Additionally, if you look into the introduction to the Prose Edda, you will notice that Snorri claims that Odin reigned in Sweden and further states that Odin had a son named Yngvi, who became the King of Sweden after him. Also, he identifies that all the houses that came from Yngvi were named ‘Ynglings’. In his account, Snorri does not identify Yngvi and Freyr as the same diety, but he has mentioned that Freyr was Odin’s other son instead of Njordr’s son.
In the Skáldskaparmál section of Snorri’s Prose Edda, Sturulson talks about Halfdan the Old, the ancient king who fathered 9 sons whose names are all words that meant ‘Lord’ or ‘King’ in Old Norse. He also talks about 9 other sons who are regarded the forefathers of several royal lineages. One of the sons was Yngvi, from whom the Ynglings trace their ancestry.
Once again, Snorri mentions 4 other personages who weren’t necessarily sons of Halfdan but they fathered dynasties. Out of these 4 personages, was Yngvi who was the forefather of Ynglings.
In Snorri’s Heimskringla, particularly in the Ynglinga section, that was written in the 12th-13th century introduces another Yngvi, who was the son of Alrekr. Alrekr was a descendent of Yngvi-Freyr and had another son named Alf. Yngvi and Alf were the two brothers who shared the Swedish kingship.
The Old Norse word ‘Yngvi’, which is similar to the Old English word ‘Ingpine’ and Old High German ‘Inguin’ all originate from the Proto-Germanic word ‘Ingwaz’. Following sound changes in the Proto-Germanic language, the word ‘Ingwaz’ transformed into ‘Ingwi’. You will also find Yngvi’s epithet ‘Fraujaz’ in two Old Norse compunds – Ingunarfreyr and Ingvifreyr. In Beowulf, Hrothgar (A Danish King in early 6th century AD) was identified as fréa inguinal, which means the ‘Lord of the Ingvaeones’. The Ingvaeons were the friends of Ing, and they occupied a territory roughly equivalent to the present-day Denmark and they formed about 5 Germanic tribes.Based on this explanation, Ing and Freyr are sometimes considered as the same dieties.
Yngvi and Alf
According to several Icelandic sagas such as the Ynglinga, Historia Norwegiae, and Ynglingatal, Yngvi and Alf were the sons of Alrik, better known as the Barbarian king. Yngvi was a great warrior who always won his battles, was extremely sociable, generous, was all-rounded, and was constantly happy. Based on these attributes, Snorri describes him as an accomplished king.
Alf, on the other hand, was more introverted, harsh, and preferred to stay at home instead of spending time ransacking other countries. He married a happy, loveable, and beautiful woman named Bera.
During the autumn, Yngvi went back to Uppsala after a triumphant Viking expedition, which made him more famous than ever. He and Bera were very social and got along very well. They spent time at the drinking table until late in the night. Alf, however, wouldn’t stay up too long. He would go to bed early and would always request his wife, Bera, to go to bed early to avoid any disturbances in the middle of his sleep. She started to feel as though she was being controlled and told her husband that Yngvi was a better man for a woman than Alf was. This statement alone angered Alf and made him so jealous that he wanted to get rid of Yngvi.
One night, Yngvi and Bera were having a hearty conversation on the high seat. Alf gently walked into the hall and no one really noticed his presence because they were all too drunk. At the time, there was a short sword on Yngvi’s lap and Alf had a sword under his cloak. When Alf got closer to Yngvi, he drew the sword on his cloak and pierced Yngvi. Yngvi was mortally wounded, but still got up, picked his short sword and killed Alf. Both died that evening, and were buried on two mounds on Fyris Wolds.